Trophy Talk

If the Tomatometer Chose the Oscar Winners

We dive deep into Tomatometer trends to see what Oscar history tells about who might take home the big prizes this year.

by | February 19, 2019 | Comments

Can the Tomatometer predict the Academy Awards? The answer is, honestly, “we don’t know.” But for the first time ever, we’re taking a deep-dive into the Tomatometer and related data to see if it can get close. Some of the outcomes we found line up exactly with what experts are predicting for next Sunday night, and some, well, do not.

The Tomatometer, of course, was never made to predict award winners – its purpose is simpler than that: to reflect the critical sentiment around a movie. So we had to come up with a methodology for how it might indicate likely winners – which is admittedly a little complicated, so bear with us. First, we gathered the Tomatometer scores of the movies, directors, and actors who have won Oscars in the five major categories since 2001, then we tried to find noticeable patterns and trends. We asked five questions of each category nominee and gave them one point for each that they got right/aligned with. Whoever had the most points after the five questions got our vote. The considerations were:

  1. Career Tomatometer averages (for actors and directors)
  2. Recent Tomatometer averages (last five films for actors, last three for directors)
  3. Number of films (for actors and directors)
  4. Tomatometer ranking of nominees in each category
  5. Individual film Tomatometer scores vs. average Tomatometer scores of past winners

Best Supporting Actress

If Beale Street Could Talk
(Photo by @ Annapurna)
  • Career Tomatometer average for winners: 55%
  • Recent films’ Tomatometer average for winners: 55.8%
  • Average number of films winners had appeared in: 22
  • Best place to be ranked on the Tomatometer: 3rd of 5
  • Tomatometer average of winning films in this category: 81.3%

Tie: Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk / Emma Stone – The Favourite 
Tomatometer Prediction: Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk

This was the most hotly contested category as Regina King and Emma Stone each collected four points according to the methodology: they’ve both made a similar number of movies (King with 22, Stone with 21) and earned similar career Tomatometer averages (King at 52.5%, Stone at 60.1%). To break the tie, we dug into recent Best Supporting Actress trends and discovered that first-time Academy Award nominees have won 12 of the last 18 Academy Awards in this category. This gives first-time nominee King an advantage over Oscar-winner and multiple nominee Emma Stone. Between that and the fact that King’s 52.5% career Tomatometer average is closer to the 55% career Tomatometer average of the last 18 winners, we’re giving the Tomatometer’s prediction officially to King for her work in If Beale Street Could Talk.

Best Supporting Actor

Bradley Cooper and Sam Elliott
  • Career Tomatometer average for winners: 60%
  • Recent films’ Tomatometer average for winners: 51.1%
  • Average number of films winners had appeared in: 34.5
  • Best place to be ranked on the Tomatometer: 2nd out of 5
  • Tomatometer average of winning films in this category: 89.2%

Tie: Sam Elliott – A Star in Born / Sam Rockwell – Vice
Tomatometer Prediction: Sam Elliott – A Star is Born 

In a battle of the Sams, whose career Tomatometer averages are both extremely close to those of prior winners in the category (Sam Elliott at 61.9%, Sam Rockwell at 62%; the category average is 60%), we decided to go with Elliott, because A Star is Born has an 89% Tomatometer score that matches up perfectly with the 89% Tomatometer average of the past 18 winners’s films in the Supporting Actor category.

Further building Elliott’s case: No actor has won a Best Supporting Actor, in this century, when starring in a movie with a Tomatometer score in the 60s. This probably means bad news for Sam Rockwell, who is nominated for Vice (66% on the Tomatometer). Much like the Best Supporting Actress category, this award also tends to go to first-time nominees; 11 of the last 18 winners have been first-time nominees, with the last five Oscars going to first-timers Jared Leto, J.K. Simmons, Mark Rylance, Mahershala Ali, and Sam Rockwell.

That said, the Mahershala Ali train this year says the Tomatometer might not be quite on the money here.

Best Actor

(Photo by @ Warner Bros. )
  • Career Tomatometer average for winners: 63.8%
  • Recent films’ Tomatometer average for winners: 58.1%
  • Average number of films winners had appeared in: 29.2
  • Best place to be ranked on the Tomatometer: 2nd of 5
  • Tomatometer average of winning films in this category: 87.2%

Tie: Bradley Cooper – A Star is Born / Christian Bale – Vice
Tomatometer Prediction: Bradley Cooper – A Star is Born

Rami Malek and Christian Bale are the clear front runners for this award, but the Tomatometer says otherwise, since no lead actor this century has won an Oscar for starring in a movie with a Tomatometer score in the 60s. Because of this, we’re giving the Tomatometer’s nod to Bradley Cooper over Christian Bale.

We also took into consideration that A Star is Born has an 89% Tomatometer score, which is the closest of the five nominees’ movies to the 87.2% Tomatometer average of the past 18 winning movies in this category. Another possible contributing factor for Cooper is that he has appeared in 32 films (the average number for past winners is 29) and A Star is Born is the highest Tomatometer-rated film in the category. Top-rated films in this category win more often than the fourth-ranked films, which is where Vice sits (4 wins compared with 2 wins), which helps give Cooper the advantage.

Best Actress

  • Career Tomatometer average for winners: 59.1%
  • Recent films’ Tomatometer average for winners: 58.1%
  • Average number of films winners had appeared in: 21.9
  • Best place to be ranked on the Tomatometer: 2nd out of 5
  • Tomatometer average of winning films in this category: 82.5%

Tomatometer Prediction: Glenn Close – The Wife

Glenn Close is the only actor to avoid a tie, according to our system. Why? Close’s career Tomatometer score is 60.2%, which matches up almost perfectly with the 59.1% career Tomatometer averages of recent winners. Also, The Wife is currently at 85%, which is good news for Close because, of all the acting categories, Best Actress has the most winners with films in the 80s on the Tomatometer. On top of that, the average of the winning movies is 82.5%, which is very close to the 85% Tomatometer score for The Wife.

Best Director

  • Career Tomatometer average for winners: 80.1%
  • Recent films’ Tomatometer average for winners: 76.3%
  • Average number of films winners had directed: 9.7
  • Best place to be ranked on the Tomatometer: 3rd of 5
  • Tomatometer average of winning films in this category: 90.5%

Tomatometer Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón – Roma

Alfonso Cuarón won this category based on his career Tomatometer average (83%) and the number of films he has directed (8) being closest to the numbers of the past 18 winners. It also helps that Roma has a 96% Tomatometer score, which gels nicely with the 14 other victorious movies released since 2000 that have a 90%-or-more Tomatometer score. Considering the BAFTA, Director’s Guild, and Critic’s Choice awards he has won this season, we think the Tomatometer is going to get this prediction right.

Best Picture

(Photo by @ Netflix)
  • Tomatometer average for winning films: 90.2%
  • Tomatometer average for winning films since 2010: 94.8%
  • Best place to be ranked on the Tomatometer: 2nd

Tomatometer Prediction: Roma

Since we only looked at the 18 prior winning movies, we didn’t focus on career Tomatometer averages for this category. Instead, we looked at Tomatometer ranking and scores.

The average Tomatometer score for Best Picture winners since 2000 is 90.2%, with 14 of the last 18 winners scoring 90% or above on the Tomatometer. At 96%, Roma meets that threshold and then some. What sealed the deal for Roma is that its Tomatometer score is the second-highest of all the nominees in the category (only Black Panther scored higher at 97%), and eight of the past 12 winners have also been no. 2 by Tomatometer.

That said, BlacKkKlansman also scored 96% on the Tomatometer, which ties it for second with Roma, so why did we choose the latter? We went with Roma because it’s ranked no. 31 and BlacKkKlansman is ranked no. 39 on Rotten Tomatoes’ “Best of 2018” list, which takes the number of reviews into consideration. When it came to the tie-breaker, we handed it over to the people who make up the Tomatometer: the critics.

There you have it. The Tomatometer predicted the winners and we’re hoping we’re able to get at least four of these right so we have a ‘Fresh’ average.

Let us know who you think should win in the comment section.

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